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Rural Mental Health Programs

WMT-AHEC secured a HRSA grant to manage the Rural Behavioral Health-Primary Care Collaborative, which places a pre-licensure clinical social worker and post-doc psychology graduate in critical access hospitals.  WMT-AHEC recruits the Critical Access Hospitals to participate, hires the new staff, and secures UM faculty to provide distance technology supervision. 

Mental health services are seriously lacking in rural areas.  WMT-AHEC and the UM faculty in Social Work and Psychology have developed a distance supervision process, in order to place a pre-licensed social worker and post-doc psychological resident with rural hospitals.

Program Update 9/9/2013

UM Social Work Alums Return to Hometown to Fill Mental Health Services Need

MISSOULA– It’s the Montana “grow-your-own” spirit that inspires Kaye Norris, assistant director of the Western Montana Area Health Education Center at the University of Montana, to coordinate a program that places “homegrown” behavioral health specialists in rural Montana communities.

The Rural Behavioral Health—Primary Care Collaborative is a program that integrates a prelicensed clinical social worker and postdoctorate psychology graduate into primary care rural health clinics. The program recently brought Deverie Kelley, a UM alum who earned her master’s of social work, back to her hometown of Deer Lodge – a small community with pride for things homegrown.

In August, she began full-time employment with Deer Lodge Medical Center.

“I look forward to providing a needed service to my hometown,” she said. “I want to motivate people to realize what’s possible and to find their inner personal strengths and potential.”

The collaborative, which is funded through a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Rural Health Care Services grant, was created in response to the overwhelming need for mental health services in rural Montana. Through a partnership with rural critical access hospitals and UM, these professionals work full time while receiving distance UM faculty supervision as they work toward licensure. After licensure is obtained, these professionals will remain full-time employees of the rural facilities.

Rita Billow, who earned her doctorate from UM’s clinical psychology program, grew up in Eureka and now practices at Libby’s Northwest Community Health Center, 30 miles from her hometown. Havre native Amy Allison, who earned her master’s of social work at UM, has been working alongside Rita for the past two years.

 “Working as a behavioral health specialist in the primary care setting has been one of the most amazing experiences I have had,” Allison said. “We support the primary care providers in treating high-need patients by providing consultation. In turn, primary care providers are responsive to our requests when we advocate for patient goals and mental health needs. This unique collaboration allows us to provide comprehensive, patient-centered health care that focuses on both mental and physical well-being.”

An additional team began employment with Glasgow’s Frances Mahon Deaconess Hospital in September.

Two more sites, Clark Fork Valley Hospital in Plains and Madison Valley Medical Center in Ennis, will begin recruiting in winter 2013.

“(The program) provides an incredible resource for the hospital staff,” Norris said.

 The behavioral health specialists work beside the primary care practitioners to provide consultations and offer intensive therapy sessions. They also address emergency mental health and behavioral issues, and provide staff in-service trainings.

According to Norris, by working directly with primary care providers, the behavioral health specialists can assist the health care facility in creating a more patient-centered model.

For more information about the collaborative and the Western Montana AHEC, call Kaye Norris at 406-243-6246.

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Western MT Area Health Education Center
The University of Montana - Skaggs Building Rm. 173
Missoula, MT 59812
Tel: (406) 243-4746 | FAX: (406) 243-4141
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